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Being a Stay-At-Home Mom is NOT a Career, But it is a Career Choice

At Work

"Full-time mothering is a career choice, but it is NOT a career."

On Monday while enjoying a PTO day, I saw a caption on the Today Show that read, “Being a Stay-at-home mom is not a career. My first thought was, “Of course it’s not. Why is this even news?” If the opinions of those around the news desk this AM are any indication, America disagrees with me. 

Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom is Noble, But it is Not a Career

The Today Show ran the caption based on an article by Liz Pardue Schultz published in Jane magazine where she declared, "Being a stay-at-home motheris not a job". Al and Tamron were fairly critical of Ms. Pardue-Schultz. It was like she had told a room full of 4 year olds that there's no Santa Claus. Part of me thinks they were so critical because because they didn't want to offend stay-at-home-moms who comprise the majority of their viewers. 

The truth is, Ms. Pardue-Schulz' basic premise is not earth shattering. One source defines  “career” "as an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one's lifework." Being a stay-at-home mom does not satisfy that definition. There is no special training required. Having a child and having the desire are the only things necessary to be a stay-at-home mom. Nobody contests that. So, why are we having this discussion?

Here's the rub... 

American society only tends to value income generating activities. If you do not earn income people tend to devalue your contributions to society. For that reason, stay-at-home moms are placed in this odd predicament at cocktail parties when asked "So, what do you do?" Because of our messed up values, stay-at-home moms are forced to make nonsensical arguments to justify that they are taking care of their families, full time. In truth, what they do is so important, it really needs no justification. 

Being a Stay-At-Home should be valued by society

I am going to resist the urge to reignite the mommy wars and make this piece about if being a stay-at-home moms is a career then what does that say about moms who work outside of the home??? It's an important question, but I'm not focusing on it here. 

Instead, I would like to simply acknowledge that stay-at-home moms do valuable, important work that benefits their families and society.  I disagree with a paragraph in Ms. Pardue Schulz's piece where she says their contributions only benefit themselves and their family.

No, Stay-at-Home-Mothers, choosing to create your own little person upon whom you’ll spend all your time and energy is a hobby. It is a time-consuming, sanity-deteriorating, life-altering hobby — a lot like a heroin addiction, but with more Thirty-One bags.  

Comparing motherhood to heroin addiction is provocative, but it detracts from the point. The truth is our entire society benefits when there are a plethora of stable families and well adjusted children. Stay-at-home moms help to create those stable families and those well adjusted children.We don't need a label change. We need a values shift.

Being a stay-at-home mom does not have to be characterized as a "career" in order for it to be valued. It can simply be what it is, an act of service, an act of sacrifice, and an act of love. 

Being a Stay-At-Home Mom is a Signicant Career Choice 

While there is no payment for being a stay-at-home there is an opportunity cost. Women who make that choice are "opting out" of their careers and "opting in" to Full Time motherhood. They give up their positions, their salaries, their prestige and consistent interaction with adults. These opportunity costs are real, but that does not transform stay-at-home motherhood into a career.

I know women who are trained doctors, lawyers, teachers, and businesswomen who are now stay-at-home moms. I admire them and respect them. Some days, I even envy them. While not a scientific study, I can confidently tell you that not one of them defines taking care of their families as their "career". Instead, they refer to it as something more.

Sometimes, they refer to it as the thing they were forced to do because they simply could not continue their careers, care for their children, and maintain their sanity. However, they also wonder about the cost of their lost opportunity.  They try to figure out how much of a pay cut they will incur when they try to re-enter the workforce. They wonder will they ever make up that lost income? They also wonder whether they have completely ruined their career potential and future employment.

Our society needs to lessen the opportunity costs to women who become stay-at-home moms. We also need to develop more laws and corporate policies that support working mothers so that those who become stay-at-home moms actually do it out of desire and not out of frustration.

We have lots of work to do in a lot of areas. However, what we do not need to do is to re-categorize stay-at-home motherhood as a "career" simply to help make cocktail party conversations less awkward.

What do you think???
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